One of the all-time great comics, Dave Chappelle, has an uproarious and thought provoking bit where he questions the value society places on ages, depending on context. (That link is decidedly NSFW, and may be uncomfortable for folks with a sexual assault background.)
The Chappelle bit raises the point that the way we each individually understand the world can significantly alter the way a statistic strikes us. For many Blues fans, the five year, $19.25 million extension signed by Patrik Berglund on Friday was a shock to the system, but when viewed against the league as a whole, the Blues may actually have found a bargain.
It seems ludicrous, of course, to suggest that paying an average of $3.8 million, including $4.7 million in the first two seasons, is some kind of “bargain.” The NHL has locked its players out three times in 23 years over a struggle to control rising salaries, so it’s easy to stand why those numbers create a Pavlovian shiver for fans trying to keep tabs on the league.
As Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski pointed out, however, there are 143 forwards with a cap hit as high or higher than Patrik Berglund. Divided evenly among the 30 teams currently paying player salaries, that means Patrik Berglund would be roughly the fifth highest paid forward on an average team.
When you consider the proliferation of high scoring forwards who are playing on entry level deals, that would put Berglund’s salary in the range of a highly paid third line player. Wyshynski referred to the deal as “Darren Helm money;” Detroit is paying Helm exactly $3.85 million per season through 2021, a year less than the Blues have committed to Berglund.
Helm is 30, Berglund 28. Helm has only 11 points in 32 games this season, and has struggled with injuries throughout his career. He has never exceeded 33 points or 15 goals, and is found on Detroit’s fourth line as often as their third.
Berglund, as we have covered repeatedly on Game Time, is on pace for his third twenty goal season. While his puck distribution leaves a great deal to be desired, he has the ability to be a disruptive force in front of the net, and also plays an important role on the penalty kill.
Berglund’s deal is also reasonable when compared to his own teammates. The much-maligned Jori Lehtera has two more years remaining at $4.7 million. Curiously, that matches the cash pay out that Berglund will receive in the next two seasons before the contract tails off in the last two years.
David Perron is also signed through next season at a rate of $3.75 million. Berglund’s deal, then, is commensurate with his peers, and reasonable for a team that may otherwise struggle to attract players to play valuable center ice minutes.
Doug Armstrong’s management of a variety of contract situations (hi, Kevin Shattenkirk) has left a great deal to be desired, but Patrik Berglund’s deal should not be a point of criticism. Berglund is a player who clearly has made St. Louis his home and feels comfortable in this environment, and the Blues would clearly rather stick with the devil they know than fish in the market for one they may not.